We're not lawyers ... but we have been through this before. With Diamond Beach and Lower Township in the 1990s, with Avalon Manor and Middle Township 2003, with Strathmere and Upper Township in 2010. Now it's Seaview Harbor and Egg Harbor Township, and the story is pretty much the same: A small, affluent, non-contiguous section of a larger town tries to secede and become part of a town it is closer to - where the tax rate just happens to be lower.
It is certainly an oddity of South Jersey geography that Diamond Beach abuts Wildwood Crest but is part of Lower Township, that Avalon Manor is closer to Avalon than to the rest of Middle Township, that Strathmere shares an island with Sea Isle City but is actually a part of Upper Township, and that Seaview Harbor is closer to Longport than the rest of EHT.
Problem is, none of that matters under New Jersey law, which make it very difficult for a section of a municipality to secede without the municipality's approval.
The bar is set high for a reason. Allowing wealthy parts of a community to break away from their more modest neighbors - so residents can pay lower taxes - serves to increase economic disparities. And the law requires that sections of a town seeking deannexation show the move would not hurt the community they are leaving.
The Seaview Harbor Realignment Committee argues that its neighborhood suffers from a lack of services from the township - a questionable claim considering that Sonny McCullough has been mayor of the township for 25 years and a Seaview Harbor resident for 40 years.
And the courts, should this dispute get that far, will not be blind to the tax ramifications. The tax rate in Egg Harbor Township is $2.81 per $100 of assessed value. The Longport rate is $0.897. And the secession would cost EHT approximately $100 million in ratables.
The next step in this fight would be lengthy hearings before the township Planning Board, followed by a vote of the Township Committee on the board's recommendation. And since the Township Committee would in all likelihood reject the petition, a court battle would follow.
The people of Seaview Harbor who want to secede are certainly within their rights to attempt it. But they aren't likely to win. It isn't even likely to be a close call. And so we have to wonder what the point of all this is.